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Category Archives: Family Life

Where are you keeping all their art work?

My kids are 31 and 28 – and their art work, school papers, reports and countless projects are STILL stored in the attic.

Maybe we’ll pull the boxes and bins out when they have kids of their own.

But, right now, they are off traveling the world (Cuba, Nepal, Cayman Islands, and England in only 4 months time)…they really could care less about their artwork and school papers!

Not me… I’m a sentimental mom. I couldn’t bear to throw much away then — and I certainly can’t do it now.

Enter KEEPY.  (#keepythat)

SOMEONE had to think of this!

It’s the perfect way to keep all those memories – and even create some video and audio to go with…

Pretty cool!

And you’re not the only one who will be digitizing and storing your kids artwork – the Metropolitan Museum of Art just digitized their entire catalog of 375,000 images (I doubt you’ll have that many…but you might!). And bravo Met – they’re sharing the images for free!

Back to your own Art Museum….

Capture the paintings, drawings, scribbles on the walls, and 3-dimensional art, too.  You can capture those fleeting moments – the bubble bath sculptures, the finger painted bodies, the food sculptures.

 

After a quick app set-up, you’ll have a “box” for each child and the app even keeps track of how old they were when they created their art.  Notice Lily’s work at age 5 and age 4, etc.

Being able to add a note or video is an added bonus!

Keepy is an app that enables you to digitally store and organize all those special memories in one spot forever.

Simply head here, create a profile for each of your kiddos and then add their drawings, photos, videos, awards, and/or mementos as often as you’d like.

You can also privately share each memory with family and friends.

Another cool feature of Keepy is that you can create high resolution photo books and gifts right from the app – gifts have never been easier!

Keepy is available to download for free in the App Store, Google Play, and is also available for Kindle Fire.

You can save up to 5 videos or photos per month for free.

But if you’d prefer unlimited storage, the subscription is only $9.99/year – much cheaper than buying another plastic bin to store all those precious mementoes!

Just wanted to share that with you – haven’t seen anything like it before.

 

#keepythat

What No One Tells You

Empty Nest.

Did you know it is a “syndrome”?

That means you aren’t alone!

Whether you’re “feeling it” because your child is off to preschool or kindergarten … or college… others have gone before you (and yes, survived!).

A mom came to me in tears after a Boys Alive! talk and asked, “Does it ever go away? No one told me it would be like this. Am I the only one that feels this way?”

The traditional EMPTY NEST had long since passed for her.  Her daughter was in her mid-20’s and had been away for years in the next state, by all measures successful in her chosen career… This is what we’ve raised them for, right?

And still. This mom longs for, yearns for, her daughter.

What do you do with this pain?

You wouldn’t want them back on your couch! Indeed, this mom confessed that after 3 days they aren’t getting along all that well.

But yet. The longing.

How do we reconcile these moments?

It is definitely a time of AMBIVALENCE. We are so happy that they are capable and able to leave us. We are so sad that they are leaving us!

Start by recognizing:

  • You may feel lonely as much of your life revolved around your child’s activities
  • You are grieving – and that’s okay
  • Your adult relationships may feel rocky and uncertain during this transition
  • Your family dynamics have changed and younger siblings may be grieving, too

Most important…deal with your own feelings of separation, loss, and grief and do not overshare with your leaving-child. This is your part of the journey. Instead, celebrate that you’ve grown this child up to leave — and celebrate their capabilities as they make this next step!

They will come home and it will be different. They’ve changed, you’ve changed.

Even now, with my girls in their early 30’s, I can truthfully say that you never get over missing them. But you do fill in and create your new “after-kids” life. You never get over it but you do move on.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 9.18.38 AMYou move into enjoying everything they are doing as young, independent adults. And sometimes, even though you’re glad to have them home for the holidays, there is that little place where you’re just as glad to see them leave again, so you can return to your “new normal.”

 

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You’re invited to join us in the Boys Alive! Private Facebook Group – ask a question, offer support, enjoy an article, laugh and cry with us. We are stronger together!

If you’d like to chat with Janet Allison one-on-one, use this link to schedule a 20-minute complementary phone call or email me at janet@boysalive.com. I’m here for you!

3 Surprising Reasons Your ADHD Children Aren’t Cooperative

Margit Crane Luria, ADHD expert shares:

Most people think that the reason ADHD children and teens don’t follow rules is because they’re all mavericks and don’t like authority.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 5.02.06 PMThis is only partially true.

Rules are guides, not controls.

ADHD kids don’t hate rules.

In fact, they would love to be cooperative.

Getting along with your parents feels good. The fact that it may be a struggle does not mean that they’re trying to thwart your efforts. Many parents assume that the point of rules is to have kids behave the way the parents want them to, and so they assume that the rules aren’t working if the kids aren’t obeying. This is actually control, and control creates power struggles. Rules aren’t about controlling kids; rules are guides to behavior. Kids can still refuse to obey or follow the rules/expectations. The trick is to have your consequences built in (In my world, consequences are not punishments; they’re more like results, as in “If you do X, Y happens.” Cause and Effect.

Random Parenting

ADHD kids do not like hypocrisy and random parenting.

In my practice, one of the most common mistakes I see is parents creating random rules. These can be in-the-moment declarations that burst forth from our frustration or anger, like “That’s it! No more computer use during the week!”

Or they may be random in the sense that they just don’t fit your kids or your family. They’re good ideas but not good rules. “Come down for dinner without my prompting you” would be ideal and it would save you time.

But will it actually work?

Also, there are rules that we create for our kids but we don’t follow them ourselves.

To ADHD kids, this is hypocritical and they will dig their heels in. They’ll fight back or shut down. For example, one family had the rule that kids couldn’t yell in the house but when it was dinner time or chore time, the mom always yelled up the stairs to get her children’s attention. I kept telling her to go upstairs instead of yelling, but she refused. What her ADHD children see is that mom is stubborn and controlling and so they become stubborn and resist being controlled.

Are you yelling at or demotivating your ADHD child?

Yelling is a huge DE-motivator. I mean, think about it – did someone yelling at you or nagging you ever inspire you to greatness?

Kids HATE yelling and nagging. It demoralizes them. Kids want to please their parents and knowing that you’re disappointed is painful for them.

Here are some other DE-motivators:

  • Criticism, insults, put-downs, teasing, sarcasm
  • Anxiety or fear
  • Depression or sadness
  • Hunger
  • Exhaustion
  • Physical pain
  • Previous negative experience

Here’s how to tap into ADHD motivation

Remember this: if you want cooperative ADHD kids and teens, you need to create scenarios that promote love, approval, comfort, freedom, and power. Being told what to do and then being yelled at because they didn’t do it is uncomfortable and kids will feel powerless and unloved.

When you create behavior expectations, make sure that you check in with your children. You can actually see stress and sadness in their faces if a new rule is too hard for their developmental level.

ADHD kids are late-bloomers, as you know, and so they may need help or support with rules. One of my clients gets help from his mother when emptying the dishwasher. Obviously he has the ability to do it. It’s not a hard task, but for some reason, this particular task stresses him out. Instead of arguing, day after day, she helps him. It’s not that big a deal and, trust me, you won’t be helping him empty the dishwasher forever!

If your kids are having trouble, ask them, “What would make this more interesting/fun/easy/comfortable?”

Then watch their minds engage and grow!

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Learn more about Margit here.

You’re invited to join us in the Boys Alive! Private Facebook Group – ask a question, offer support, enjoy an article, laugh and cry with us. We are stronger together!

If you’d like to chat with Janet Allison one-on-one, use this link to schedule a 20-minute complementary phone call or email me at janet@boysalive.com. I’m here for you!

ADHD Parenting Frustration

Guest Post by Margit Crane Luria of Blocked to Brilliant. Margit was our guest on BOY TALK #14 – Get the interview here.

How to Conquer ADHD Parenting Frustration

Ever have one of those “I QUIT” days? Me too! ADHD parenting frustration is common. Read on to learn what to do when you’re overwhelmed.

As the parent of an ADHD child, wanting to quit comes with the territory. Where’s that training manual? Who’s going to be your “big sister” or “big brother” to show you the ropes? And on top of that, you’re engaged in an unpopular activity. I mean, when there are still people debating whether ADHD even exists, you know you’ve got a tough road ahead.

Some days, it all comes to a head and floods your brain and your heart:

  • “Everybody else is doing a much better job!”
  • “I can’t manage that much!”
  • “Nothing I do works! I’ve tried everything!”
  • “I just need to accept that it will always be this way.”
  • “I’m a failure as a parent.”
  • “I gave my child ADHD and now it’s payback time.”

Hitting a wall is common. You are not alone. But things don’t have to stay this way forever and ever. There is help.

Let me share 3 tips with you that I use with my clients:

1. Remember that your negative thoughts are not facts, they’re judgments.

Parents with ADHD children can sink into believing that what we’re feeling today is the truth and that what we felt yesterday, despite proof of our competence and, even, greatness, does not count anymore. “I may have been a genius yesterday, but today I’m a loser and that’s the real truth. The other day was just a fluke.”

This isn’t true. It’s not the way life works. It’s not the way anyone’s life works.

Thoughts like these are negative judgments about ourselves. I teach my clients that instead of saying things like, “I don’t think I’ll ever have time to finish my project” or “I feel like a loser” (which isn’t really a feeling/emotion if you think about it!), tell the truth: “I judge that I won’t have time to finish my project, but I don’t know that for sure,” or “Right now I’m judging that I’m a loser, but I don’t know that for sure.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 8.30.29 AMClient Hanna was taught to be a perfectionist and, when she couldn’t be perfect (or even close) she sank into despair, repeating that she was a horrible parent, that she couldn’t do it anymore, that her ex-husband was right and he should take the kids. As an outsider to the situation I had the perspective she needed to remind her that 1) this was a pattern of behavior that happened whenever she hadn’t taken time to herself after dropping off the kids at school, and 2) I was here to help make things easier and that we could talk right then.

Over time, Hanna was able to develop skills to parent better and to manage her negative thoughts more effectively as well.

2. Find your champions

There are all kinds of online forums for parents of ADHD children. Parents chat about their struggles and other parents tell them to hang in there. That’s nice as far as it goes, but I worry that parents may grow dependent on the “struggle” paradigm. Who are the people that raise your spirits? Who uplifts you? Look among your friends and see who will boost your energy when you’re down. Likewise, there are people in our lives who discourage us. Don’t bother looking for approval from them. Make a list of those people who encourage you and those who discourage you. Buddy up to the encouragers and stay away from the discouragers.

We all need people we can count on to cheer us on. I know who mine are and I spend more time with them than with other people because I want a joyful life not a life of struggle. I’ve struggled for years and it’s just terrible. I’m good and overcoming my struggles but I don’t want to have to overcome stuff for the rest of my life. It’s exhausting! Where’s the fun?

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 8.30.05 AMClient Jake was struggling with his son, Bryan. He was a sweetheart but smart enough and curious enough to try all sorts of things, like lighting a can of Easy-Off oven spray on fire! I’ve been there – my brain wants to know “what if…” to my own detriment at times! One of Jake’s friends told him there was something wrong with Bryan, that he was a behavior problem and needed to be hospitalized! Jake was discouraged. Instead, I told him to “Bryan-proof” the house. You can’t take away an ADHD child’s curiosity but you can manage at, at least at home, by creating an environment that encourages only safe curiosity. While friends were ready to commit Bryan to one institution or another, I had a more uplifting solution. That’s what I do, as an ADHD family coach – I offer solutions that uplift and accommodate each individual family or client.

3. Don’t spend all your care and attention on others; treat yourself to some of your great love and kindness!

Those “I QUIT” messages come from anxiety, nerves, fear of the unknown. As such, treat yourself kindly not brutally. ADHD parents are some of the most compassionate people in the world. Also the fiercest! But, often, all that fierce compassion is directed toward protecting and supporting your ADHD child. How about directing it at supporting yourself? You deserve it!

When you’re around friends or family who are feeling nervous, confused, or fearful, you’re often the first one to uplift them, give them a hug, or reassure them that you’re not giving up on them. And yet, do you “hug” yourself? Somehow we think it’s frivolous to do things for ourselves when there are people who are “REALLY” suffering.

When you’re feeling anxious, it’s okay to say, “I’m working my butt off for this family, and I need a little time off!” Everyone will be happier (EVERYONE) if you take some time for yourself. A parent that nurtures his/her own sanity is a good example to set for the kiddos.

  • Take a bath
  • Use some balancing essential oils
  • Do some art work
  • Journal your thoughts
  • Take a walk or go for a run
  • Go to yoga class
  • Take a nap!
  • Read a book
  • Listen to some uplifting music
  • Eat something healthy; it may be that you have some low blood sugar going on.
  • Call your champions

Client Sue learned to manage her resentment and overwhelm by blessing those people who were bugging her. She would say, “Bless him” or “Bless her” or “I should be more understanding.” I asked her, who’s blessing you? What if you say, “Bless me”? Or how about giving yourself that understanding that you offer to others? She started out blessing the other person and herself at the same time. Eventually, she was able to identify her moments of overwhelm, say, “Bless him/her,” AND go do something kind and nurturing for herself.

“I QUIT” moments are completely normal

These “I QUIT” moments are completely normal, and feeling overwhelmed is what happens when we attempt to do something or be something that we’ve never done or been before. It also happens when we have had a bad experience with the activity or thought. The brain IS elastic though. Your children may always have ADHD but you can change the way your brain deals with the ADHD. These three tips, when practiced on a regular basis, will help make ADHD parenting less frustrating and more manageable.

xo, Margit

Copyright 2016 Margit Crane Luria. All Rights Reserved

Why ADHD Kids Say “I Don’t Know” So Often

by Margit Crane Luria of Blocked to Brilliant

Margit is our guest on BOY TALK #14 coming out on August 17, 2016.  She gives us new insights and strategies to the “diagnosis” of ADD/ADHD.  Margit was one of the first adults to be diagnosed with ADD in the early 80s. Since then she has become the “ADD Angel” for many families that she has coached and counseled.

Hear Margit on BOY TALK #14 – Save Your Seat HERE.

Boys, especially, are master of the “I don’t know” response – even without ADD/ADHD in the mix!

Margit writes, “Recently, one of my clients (let’s call him Matt) cancelled calls with me 4 times. I knew why: It was because he knew we were going to do some homework together and he didn’t want to. He wanted to ride his bike (Who wouldn’t?). I asked Matt why he kept cancelling and he said, “I don’t know.” That got me thinking about how, in the past, I would have been slightly irritated at him wasting my time, not accepting my help, and being generally defiant.

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 2.55.01 PM

We often become distressed by our children’s seeming inability to do simple things, like ask for help, put away their clothes, or turn in homework. We become disappointed and ultimately angry, and we confront our child.

“Why can’t you do this? It’s so simple. Everyone else is doing it with no trouble at all. Why can’t you?”

And you know the response, right?

“I don’t know.”

Gah! Why do they DO that?

ADHD children are very sensitive and having an angry parent is overwhelming to the senses. They may yell at you or try to distract you by talking about your faults. They may hide in their rooms or they may do what you want but give you the silent treatment. ADHD children are rarely able to manage their emotions in the moment, as they’re actually happening. In confusion, frustration, and sadness that they’ve disappointed you, “I don’t know” becomes an easy way to slow things down, to stop the barrage of parental expectations.

Here’s what “I don’t know” really means:

  • I can’t help you. I don’t seem to be able to make myself do what I want to do.
  • Please don’t be mad.
  • I can’t take more nagging.
  • Do we have to keep having the same conversation? That won’t change me.
  • You can keep asking but I don’t have a different answer.
  • I feel like a loser and I’m trying to cover it up.
  • I don’t want to say the wrong thing.
  • I’m embarrassed by being a failure.
  • If I could answer to your satisfaction, I would.
  • My mind is (actually) blank.

This is why ADHD kids say “I don’t know” so often.

It has little to do with defiance and a lot to do with self-esteem and/or not being able to access information in a timely manner.

The truth is that Matt wasn’t wasting my time. I still had my time.

He wasn’t refusing my help. He just couldn’t handle this particular responsibility.

He wasn’t being defiant either. In fact, his response had nothing to do with me. He was simply postponing relief and prolonging his misery because he didn’t know how to make a different decision.

Change your response:

The solution is to change the way you respond. Believe me, I know this is difficult. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get an answer that contains some real information!

Instead of being frustrated, put yourself in your child’s shoes.

  • Imagine what it must be like to know that you’re having a regular conversation but you can’t respond in a regular way.
  • Imagine what it’s like to disappoint your parents, yet again.
  • Imagine experiencing this for an extended period of time.

My childhood experience:

I remember, very well, the absolute confusion and disappointment I felt when I vowed to be good and couldn’t manage to hold it together for even 30 minutes. I had NO IDEA how I got from Point A to Point B, from my vow to my misbehavior.

This isn’t a moral issue or a problem with your child’s integrity. This is an Executive Function challenge. The pre-frontal cortex hasn’t developed enough to handle the demands being made.

One thing you can do to help your child is to say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t give you much time to think about this. I would really appreciate it if you’d take some time to think this over and let me know your answer. I’ll check back with you tomorrow/in an hour/after I get home…”

The moral of the story is:

Don’t take it personally, Don’t assume defiance, Practice patience, Be encouraging, and Give your child or teen the grace and dignity to JUST. NOT. KNOW.

When they DO know, they’ll tell you.”

 

It’s Okay If He Doesn’t Like You

FINALLY! You can stop feeling guilty for not giving into your son…

As you look toward the school year ending (it’ll be here before you know it!), you may be just frazzled enough to begin relaxing the homework routine or allowing just those few extra minutes of screen time – because you’re tired, and school’s almost out, and, hey, summer is coming.

IMG_7429

Wait.

Summer is coming?

What then?

If you’re like many parents that I’ve coached over the years – one of your highest priorities is to stay connected to your boy and build a close relationship that will last into his adulthood.

Seems pretty easy to do when your son is little and relies on you for everything.

But as he grows and expresses his own mind, he may have other priorities than just keeping you happy.  Ouch.

We want our kids to like us, right?

At the same time that we are doing so much to make sure they like us, I also hear parents complaining about how entitled their kids are, how it’s impossible to get them to help around the house, and, well, don’t even get started on the negotiation that happens every single minute over screen time!

And still… We want our kids to like us!

So, we settle.

We negotiate with ourselves (even more than with them).  We tell ourselves, “It’s just this one time.”  “It’s just because he’s been sick.”  “His friends have been mean to him, so just this once…”

And soon, we feel out of control and uncomfortable…and angry…at them.  

But, more honestly, we’re angry with ourselves because we didn’t hold the line when we could have and probably should have.

In order for us to hold the line – WE have to be okay with spending some time on the other side of it – the side of being disliked, hated, reviled, ridiculed, and embarrassed by our kids. Ouch.

When we put the emphasis on wanting our kids to like us – we lose out on opportunities.

First and foremost, we miss the opportunity to swim in our own discomfort.  

Who knew that would be a thing that could be good for us?!  

But when we can be uncomfortable within our own skin, we are more likely to find the strength to show up for them when they face their own uncertainties.

When we can be okay with discomfort, it means we don’t NEED to have to have our kids like us all the time!

Hallelujah – and that means FREEDOM!

Now we can be free when he says, “I’m bored!”

Free to respond — or not.

Free to let HIM figure out what he wants to do, build, read, or bake.

Now we can be free when he says, “I don’t want to play with my baby brother any more!”

Free to respond or not.

Free to let them work it out or free to split them up and see how long it takes before they are begging to play together again.

Now we can be free when he says, “Pllllllease just let me finish this level or I’ll lose all of my game!” Free to respond or not.

Free to let him “hate” you when the timer goes off because that’s what you’ve decided on ahead of time and your Negotiation Department is closed.

Sure, we want our kids to like us!

More importantly, we want our kids to LOVE us.

And that means we’ve given them firm boundaries, kind guidance, and a good strong NO when they need it – all along the way.

Now that you know, you can be like so many parents who’ve gone before you…

When he says, “I’m bored!” or “I’m sick of playing with my brother,” you can say:  GO OUTSIDE!  

And even though our own parents didn’t have to wrestle with the screen-monster, you’ve got the answer to all of his whining and pleading for more screen time: GO OUTSIDE!

And, maybe, just maybe, you might gently and lovingly lock the door behind you, knowing he’ll be out for hours digging, creating, and doing, or just staring at a tiny bug or the big wide blue sky.

And when he is an adult and looks back on his unhurried days, he’ll like you (and love you) all the more.


Join our Boys Alive! conversation over on Facebook, click the image below:


 

Eulogy for Mom 2

Kansas, May 7, 2016 – Another step in the journey, as we inter my Mom’s ashes. If these words give you a measure of comfort, I’m grateful for that.

IMG_7374

“Here we are, Mom, letting go again.

Its familiar somehow.

Each letting go has had its own measure of difficulty.

Each letting go challenged us to stay steady, dig deep, and carry on.

Each letting go allowed me to be with you in a whole new way.

From letting go of you, Mom, and our sewing, cooking and many conversations…I gained you, Mom, in a whole new way of being together.

We laughed, we sang silly songs, we sat and watched the evening sky – holding hands and saying all that needed to be said –

From my heart to yours,

And back again.

Letting go of those precious days has led to THIS day – letting go of your physical body now.

It feels so right that you are here in Kansas, in the middle of the country, which now becomes the center pole of our world. As each of us travels our own journey, the constant is  – our hearts filled with your pure love and each with a heart string tied to this place.

Forever.

I love you, Mom, so much.

Rest now.”

IMG_7400

Are you doing too much for him?

This is part 3 of a 5-part series on LIVING WITH BOYS
Many parents tell me they had “NO IDEA!” how exciting, puzzling, and exhausting parenting a boy would be!

Here are some proven ways to COPE and CONNECT with him.

First, it is essential to understand what is hard-wired and therefore, unchangeable (this is usually the place where you tend to butt heads.)  Then, understanding and adapting to these hard-wired parts of who he is and knowing how to adapt your responses to meet him – HIS WAY – is the KEY to coping and connecting!

PART 3: Are you DOING TOO MUCH FOR HIM?

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“Let me do that for you…”
Do you carry his backpack into school for him?
Do you rush to school when he calls to say he’s forgotten his homework?

Here’s how to “Cope and Connect”:

We all want our kids to grow up to be capable and responsible for themselves and their things. Yet, we forget that these habits and abilities are instilled at an early age.

We get so busy that we just want to ‘hurry up’ and so we carry the backpacks, lunch boxes, and musical instruments just to move the show along!

However, a deep need for boys is – THEY WANT TO SERVE!

They want to do things for us…so let him start learning EARLY to serve you and the family.

When you create opportunities for him to be of service at home – laundry, dishes, table setting, and feeding the animals – he is learning about his growing abilities to do things.

I know, as with all teaching, it takes patience and repetition to get it right but…

The PAY-OFF comes later.

When those habits are instilled in him and you can rely on his help with groceries, dishes, laundry etc, you have helped to develop his sense of service and helped him to realize the satisfaction that comes from being of service.

As he grows, you’ll be proud and amazed as he chooses his own ways to serve others and to serve his greater community.

That feeling? That begins now.
Let him carry in your groceries – at any age – and enjoy the shine in his eyes as he helps you out!

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Learn more about all the boys and men in your life in this

FREE SPECIAL REPORT:  “Living with Boys: I had no idea!”   

YES, I WANT THE FULL REPORT!

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Managing Holiday Gift Expectations

With the gift-giving season fast-approaching, Rebecca Marshall, KXL101, asks how to help parents manage gift-getting expectations.
Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 9.56.46 AM
Asking moms on social media is a great way to figure out what’s going on “out there.”  Here are some great suggestions:

  1. Prepare your children in advance. Talk about gift-giving and gift-getting and prepare them about what to expect (or not to expect).  Be realistic.
  2. Emphasize the importance of time with family and that gifts are a bonus. Creating yearly traditions around food and entertainment can be an alternative – watching a certain holiday movie, having a certain dinner or breakfast treat, etc.
  3. Set realistic gift-getting expectations – it’s okay to ask for them to ask for what they want but also tell them what they realistically can expect.
  4. More is NOT better.
  5. One mom tells her son one present he will be getting so he knows he can expect that one thing. She found her son didn’t necessarily like surprises and so knowing ahead actually kept the bargaining and anxiety around gifts to a minimum.
  6. One mom uses: something you want / something you need / something you wear / something you read plus stocking stuffers.
  7. That ELF ON THE SHELF ? – he’s giving back this year – kids are encouraged to hand over a toy or two so he can take them back to the workshop to repair and spruce it up for another child.  Read more here.
  8. Remember service to others during the holidays — instill the value of what you can give, rather than what you receive.
  9. One mom balances their wish list with family values and finds the comfort zone. Sometimes it’s a “no to that because we’re saying yes to that”! Like, no to too much, no to plastic, no to media/screen because we are saying yes to a healthy home on earth, healthy body and brain development, healthy human interaction!

However you choose to celebrate and negotiate and navigate this holiday season – may it bring you great joy and may you treasure all the moments.

Rules are Meant to Be Broken

In play, there are rules.
boys playing soccer
In families, there are rules.

But how did they get made?

What if it’s time to break some of them?

Now that it’s summer, take time to do just that!

Now that it’s summer, maybe you have memories of running freely and creating your own rules around kickball, hide and seek – vigorously arguing, evolving and changing the rules, getting mad, making up, continuing to play, and making up more rules on the fly.

If you didn’t have that kind of childhood, you can enjoy one vicariously here.

Lessons Learned

What valuable lessons you were learning! Negotiation, anger management, giving in, and getting creative.

As we grow up, we get rule-bound.

As our families grow, we stay rule-bound.

We don’t even know when the rule started or why but we insist on keeping it – just because.

Summer is a great time to assess your family rules – what’s working and what isn’t.

Your kids have more capabilities and have assumed more responsibilities than the last time you may have done a “rule makeover.”

Rules are meant to work and if they don’t – break them and make some new ones!

Thinking about Rules:

How many rules do you have in your family? Three non-negotiables is a good place to start.

Too many rules means they’ll be difficult and confusing to enforce (which stresses you out).

Your kids will find every loophole in your rules and they’ll negotiate and nag their way through every one of them (which stresses you out).

What are your rules based on?

Safety
Everyone deserves to feel safe and be safe. Many of our rules are build up around telling children what not to do: “Don’t touch,” “Don’t run,” “Don’t spill.”

Children need to have real data – information they can use to react and behave well the next time. Tell them what you DO want them to do: “Keep your hands close to your body.” “Walk beside me in the parking lot.” “Keep your milk in the glass.”

Morals and Values
Some rules may be based on morals and what you value as a family:

  • We go to church on Sunday.
  • We volunteer.
  • We recycle.

Check in to see if morality-based rules still apply to your family.

Beliefs
Other rules may be based on what you believe:

  • We believe that all people are equal and treat them that way.
  • We believe hard work is the key ingredient to success.
  • We believe it is important to take one day to play each week.

Rules based on your beliefs and your morals and values can get a little sticky as you merge families together. Are you implementing rules just because you were “raised that way”? Do they make sense for your family now?

Arbitrary Rules
These are the rules that creep up on you!

Are they rules you want to keep?

  • Do it, because I said so.
  • Clean your plate at every meal.
  • Clean up your room.

Food for thought from a mom who has raised her kids

Clean up your room!”
pile of laundry
As a young mom, I decided that I didn’t want to fight the “clean up your room” battle with my kids. Yep, I was scarred as a kid on this one. So I chose a different rule than my parents had.

My oldest loved clothes, her dresser was like Pandora’s box – so many outfits, so little time! She’d try two or three things on and the rejected clothes went on the floor.

My rule for their room: have a clear path from door to bed if you want me tuck you in. (Mostly they did.)

Fast forward to now – my daughter is 30. I chuckle when I visit her and see that she still tries on multiple outfits, the rejects still go on the floor. Her room is still a “mess” (according to me).

Looking back, though, I’m so glad I didn’t make a rule that couldn’t be broken – our relationship would have suffered over too many arguments about the state of her room.

Let Them Argue about Rules

Kids need the chance to navigate and negotiate rules. It’s a great opportunity for them to take a stand, state what they believe in, and negotiate for the common good. It’s a never-ending process. If you mostly stay out of it, they’ll figure it out over time.

Rules are meant to be broken, reconfigured, tested, broken, and reconfigured again.

How to Create Rules

This advice comes to you from Boys Alive! Bring Out Their Best! by yours truly.

  1. State the problem clearly from a neutral observer’s point of view.
  2. Ask him to help find solutions. Boys are creative and innovative and he is likely to come up with something you’d never have thought of!
  3. Implement the new rule for a given time, then revisit to see if it is effective.

For example, you observe: “Your clothes are on the floor instead of in the hamper. What can be done about that?” You give him the opening to find a solution. You set a timeframe for implementation and follow-up. “So, you’ll pick them up every morning this week and we’ll check in on Saturday to see how it worked.”

Boys need and want rules.

He wants to know:

  • Who is in charge?
  • What are the rules?
  • Will the rules be fairly enforced?

Rules give him a structure he can count on. Rules do not require you to include incentives, bribery, or rewards. Watch your step here!

Rules require you to: Make them. Break them. And start all over again.

Have fun doing it!

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

When You Don’t Like Your Child

First of all, you’re human.

You’re probably a tired human that hasn’t been taking care of yourself.

You’ve probably been focusing more on your child’s behavior than on your child’s being.

Perfectly normal, natural, and hugely common.

Now, that said, go easy on yourself.  Here’s some reassurance and some tips –

Talking with Steve and Rebecca today on KXL 101…

Is it normal? Is it okay? We love them unconditionally but we don’t always like our kids.

You may have a whiny kid, an aggressive kid, or a teenage giving you the ‘stink eye.’

“When you change how you look at this behavior, the behavior begins to change.”

Stop focusing on the behavior that is driving you crazy – easier said than done, I know.  You can do this by beginning to focus on the positive.  What is the one teeny, tiny little thing he does that IS positive?

Start to grow this – even if it is only in your mind.

TELL SOMEONE – call grandma, a girlfriend, whomever — and tell them the one positive from your day. This will amplify that behavior and begin to push the negative “I don’t like you” behavior into the background.

GET HELP – no one is expected to parent alone, sometimes you’ve got to “call in the troops” and give yourself a break.  Then get yourself some help. Parenting coaches are adept at guiding you through these waves.

SELF-CARE – always, in every parenting advice column, you’ll find self-care.  You just have to.  No one will do it for you.  YOU have to take care of YOU.  When will you start?

IT WILL PASS – like clouds in the sky, many behaviors will pass as your child grows and changes.

If you are in a rut of not liking your child, it’s okay.  Recognize it.  Normalize it.  Then take proactive steps.  Reach out to me, I’m a parenting coach and I can help.  Find out more here: http://boysalive.com/coaching/  I’m offering introductory sessions for a limited time.

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

So Many Ways to Play

Play is a crucial element to learning about the world, exploring relationships with self and others, and building physical and mental agility. Most of all, play is fun – and adults don’t do it enough!family with goggles swimmingPlay is natural and your child comes fully equipped for it. They don’t need special gizmos or gadgets to play, in fact, the less the better. When we step back and allow our child’s play to unfold, we can observe their innate wisdom and tenacity.

When we teach a child to do a task rather than let them play out the task, we actually circumvent what they will learn through their own trial-and-error. Janet Lansbury of Elevating Child Care shared this mom’s video which shows so well what happens when we allow our child to find their own way.

boy climbing

How do you play at your house?

Children [and adults] need the freedom and time to play.
Play is not a luxury. It is a necessity.
-Kay Redfield Jamison
Imaginative Play
My friend recently welcomed a new baby, and her 4 year-old was excited to be a big sister. Sister has an active imagination and she easily moved between wanting a bottle and to be swaddled like the baby and wanting to hold the baby and comfort him. Mom took all in stride, knowing sister was processing this new reality through her play. Her boundaries were that the bottle and ‘boppy’ stayed in the bedroom.   Soon, sister will take up her full role and she won’t need to imagine she is the baby.

Imaginative Play can also save the day when challenges arise. Child won’t eat? What if you play mice and nibble at your food? What if you pretend to be squirrels who are tidying their nest when it is time to clean the bedroom?

Narrative Play
Another aspect of play that often goes along with imaginative play, is narration the action. I’m moving this truck to the sand pit and then it is going up over the mountain and crashing into the water…complete with sound effects.

This becomes a familiar form of writing for many boys, too, as studied by Dr. Thomas Newkirk and reported in Misreading Masculinity. Boys, especially, seem to write mostly about adventure upon adventure without much character or plot development.

Active Play
For your sanity, you’ve got to have plenty – both indoors and out. Creating acceptable ways for kids to get their energy out is easier than you might think. Adding a mini-trampoline in your living room is a great outlet.

One dad told me that he watched his daughter diligently working on homework, then get up and jump 5 or 6 times, sit back down and easily re-focus.

Silent during dinner, a friend’s son would get on the mini-trampoline right after eating and start talking about his day. His moving facilitated his talking.

Other indoor options:

  • Hanging a disc swing from a ceiling joist
  • Chin-up bar that expands to fit in any door opening
  • Chin-up bar – add a long cloth and you’ve got a hammock that can be a swing, too
  • Bean bag chairs – more than one so they can be used for stacking, climbing, and sliding.

Boys may stretch the bounds of active play – going beyond limits that are comfortable for you (oh-over-cautious-one). Check in with dad and other men and ask them what their comfort level is. If you’ve let him explore in an age appropriate way all along, you’ll be surprised how agile he is. If you let him climb a tree only as far as he is able on his own, then you know he has the coordination and ability to down without too much trouble. And sure, he may get hurt but I guarantee, he’ll wear the scratches or stitches with a warrior’s pride.

Roughhousing
roughhousing dad and girl
All kids need to roughhouse. Some will prefer it more than others, usually boys. Turning, rolling, twisting and jumping build new neural pathways, hone balance, and strengthen body awareness. In The Art of Roughhousing, the authors share dozens of activities to enjoy together. “These delightful games are fun, free, and contain many surprising health benefits for parents. So put down those electronic games and get ready to rumble!” encourage the authors. One caveat: some moms tell me they don’t like to wrestle and roughhouse and I tell them they don’t have to, however, they do need to find someone to wrestle with their sons.

Real Play

Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning. -Fred Rogers

mom and girl baking
When my kids were little, we lived in Maine where winters were long and very cold. My sanity saver was the kitchen. We baked everyday – edible treats and made-up recipes. I made sure they had proper tools and they learned to use mixers and knives at an early age.

You never know how those “real play” experiences will influence them later in life. Katie grew up to own a very successful baking company, Kinderhook Snacks.
IMG_4914
How will you play this summer?

I challenge you to set aside your to-do list, your busyness, and give yourself time to play. Play with your kids, play with your partner…when you are playing you are fully engaged in the present moment – and what better way to connect with each other?

The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression. -Brian Sutton-Smith

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

Home Alone

Talking about Kids and Staying Home Alone with Rebecca and Steve on KXL101 Morning News:

School ends soon. That means kids will be home, families will be traveling… How do you know if your child is old enough to stay home alone or travel alone this summer?
reading boys best book
Is it okay to leave your child home alone?
Oregon is one of only 3 states that have laws about children staying home alone. No younger than 10 years old in my state.

Most importantly, however, is that you know what your child is capable of. How would he respond in an emergency? Does he know the steps to take? Do you have neighbors that live close by? Most importantly, is he comfortable being at home alone?

How old is old enough to babysit?
Great preparation for babysitting is to begin as a mother’s helper. Take a babysitting class. Ages 12 to 14 are good years to begin babysitting. Boys need older boys as babysitters. Again, this depends on your child’s interest level and maturity.

How old is old enough to travel by bus and plane alone?
Southwest Airlines says children 5 to 11 years old can travel nationwide (but not internationally) as unaccompanied minors. However, many limitations apply. Check the airline you’ll be traveling.

Greyhound Bus Lines allow unaccompanied minors age 8-14 years old to travel alone. Again, many limitations apply. Be sure to check with the carrier.

At what age is it okay to take public transportation by oneself?
A controversial topic! It is important to determine whether your child is capable of handling changes in schedules and routes and be comfortable with unexpected passenger interactions. My personal opinion: 12 years old.

You are the one who knows your child best. If you are feeling uncertain (or over-protective), check in with someone else who knows your child well. Your child will also lead you – insisting on babysitting or staying home alone. Listen and then use your best judgement. Start with short routes, one hour stays, and build from there.

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

Picky Eaters

Talking with Steve and Rebecca at KXL101 about picky eaters.

Did you have one meal today and your child had another? Did you fix two (or more) meals for your family? Are you catering to your child’s eating whims (and hating yourself for it)?

Taste sensitivities or “picky eaters” are most prevalent in the young child – 2 to 5 year olds. Most outgrow this phase but some don’t. According to Weed ‘Em & Reap “Because food involves all of our senses – see the food, touch the food, smell the food, taste the food, and even hearing the food as we chew it – eating can be very difficult for kids with sensory processing disorders.”

Remember, you are modeling proper ethics around food – eating healthy food, portion control, and you are “the boss” when it comes to what they can eat. (No ice cream until you’ve eaten ‘strong’ food).

Weed ’em and Reap author suggests these “Don’ts”:
Don’t make dinner a battle of wills.
Don’t become a short order cook.
Don’t reduce what your family eats based on what your “sensitive eater” will eat
Don’t let mealtime become about rewards/bribes
Don’t allow excessive snacking. Hunger is a big motivator.

A grown-up friend, who was a picky eater, recalls that her favorite part of meals was gathering together and table conversation. The worst part was being “left behind” when she couldn’t eat what was on her plate – and then she really couldn’t eat along with being emotionally distressed. Be sure to recognize what may be going on around meal times for your child.

Most of all, keep trying. Don’t give up. This, too, shall pass.

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

Kids and Nature

Talking about Kids and Nature with Rebecca and Steve on KXL101 Morning News:

“How can NATURE help our younger kids with learning?”
Being in nature provides learning and opportunities for:

    • Body awareness – balance, core strength, agility
    • Taking risks, meeting challenges
    • Problem solving
    • Team-work
    • Getting out of “your head”
    • Experiencing life and death
    • Witnessing the changing seasons

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 9.08.24 AM

        Recent research is showing an alarming trend towards

myopia in Chinese children.

          Could it be a result of too much time looking at screens and,

my opinion

        , not enough time looking at the far distant horizon and then looking close up at a ladybug climbing up the nearest flower?

Parks are even getting into the act of creating experiences more closely reflecting that of wild places. Portland has created several “natural” playgrounds with more in the works. Read about the All-Natural Playground here.Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 9.24.57 AM

For anyone who has spent time in nature, at any age, you’ve likely experienced a sense of inner quiet, strength, and capability. These feelings can’t blossom fully on the couch.

Steve asks, “Do a lot of schools take part in this concept of outdoor learning—even in urban settings?”
There is a growing trend toward “forest schools” – children are outside all day, every day. This movement comes out of Europe and is catching hold here. Children are naturals at being outside, given the chance.
Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 9.16.08 AM
Portland is home to more than a few outdoor schooling options:
Mother Earth School
Trackers Northwest

“What about when they get older–what value does it have for them?”— Many kids fondly remember their Outdoor School experience – if they were lucky enough to have it as a part of their curriculum.

Stepping out of the normal routine and regular friendships can open up new vistas – both inner and outer. Being outside is a great way to unplug and simplify.

Looking for a rich experience for your kids this summer? Inner Guide Expeditions is highly recommended. They say, “Something astounding happens when electronics are left behind and an “analog” rhythm of life emerges center stage – wilderness becomes adventure, challenge becomes insight, campfires become council, strangers become family.”
Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 9.19.53 AM

“Is there any DOWNSIDE to this?”
There is NO downside to connecting with nature at any time – for any of us!

There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.

Pull on your rain gear and head outside with or without the kids!

Lazy Parenting = Less Than

Feeling less than?
Remember > and < symbols from math class? (I could never remember which was which.) Less than.
Greater than.

Parenting encompasses the full range.
Sometimes in the space of ‘less than’ a minute.

From parenting zen to parenting nightmare in less than 60 seconds. Has that ever happened to you? Our confidence is totally shot as our kid is melting down on the floor or pounding on our bedroom door – where we’ve taken refuge!

Finding grace in these moments can be tough.

Sometimes it isn’t until we are completely flattened with illness, depression, divorce, or overwhelm that we realize that doing less than actually adds up to greater than.

I’ve advocated “Lazy Parenting” for years.
Hammock_Stands_Australia-Free_Standing_Hammock_Stand
Lazy Parenting means less than while actually adding up to greater than, in the end. When you do less, be less, accomplish less, you are opening up the world for your kids to do more, be more, and accomplish more – or at least feel like they have the know-how, if they choose to use it!

Before illness flattens you – lighten your load.
What can your kids be doing for themselves?
When my girls were in 1st and 3rd grades, I was teaching (and very stressed) and we had a 30-minute commute to school. Mornings were NOT pretty at my house. I did not like making lunches and I guess that was pretty obvious to my girls. Without conversation, they began to take over lunch preparations. Viola`! They got what they wanted in their own lunches AND mom was a little nicer to be with on the morning commute! Do I advise this approach? No.

Learn from my mistakes and take a serious look at what your stressors are. And then ask for help and permission to be less than.

When we let go, our kids step up. As long as we are filling the vacuum, they will default to, “Mom will do it. Dad will take care of that. I don’t have to.”

Recently, a parent shared with me experiencing the pleasure her son had in cleaning up the mess he had made (milk spilled..you know). Instead of doing it herself, she gave him soap, sponge, towels, bucket…and showed him…and then let him do it.

Viola’! He continued to clean the floor even after the mess was taken care of — because he could and because she let him!

She might have been out laying in her hammock…you get the idea, right?

Where will you be less than?
Send me an email – tell me about it!
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(photo from Hammock Stands Australia)

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

GOOD FORTUNE this Season

‘Tis the season…of DOING.
Hustle…Bustle…

Is this you?
“A wise man saw a woman running in the street and asked, “Why do you run?”
She replied, “I am running after my good fortune!”
The wise man tells her, “Silly woman, your good fortune has been trying to catch you but you are running too fast!”

Want to stop running and make it a “Season of Being” instead?
You can. Right. Now.
Here’s how:

1. Create some quiet time for yourself. (Takes HUGE willpower but do this, you won’t regret it.)

2. Now write, draw, or simply make a movie in your mind: Fast forward yourself to January 3, 2015, pause there and look back. What will matter the most to you? The cleaning, shopping, wrapped presents, hustle…bustle…? OR will it be “THE MOMENT”? You know the one: a look, a touch of the hand, a smile.

2. Amplify YOUR MOMENT as you look back by ‘turning up the volume’ on the mood you’ve created – yes, the one your deepest heart yearns for.

3. Roll up your sleeves, this might be hard for you, time to write down exactly/specifically/in great detail WHAT YOU WANT. (NOT what you don’t want). The more you “color” the images, the more likely they will be to unfold as you have pre-determined. (May sound a little “woo-woo” but try it, and prepare to be amazed!)

4. Now write down what is EXPECTED of you – or what you THINK your partner/kids/parents expect of you. Ouch – this could be a long list.

5. Time to get real – what can you comfortably and honestly do LESS of? What do you want MORE of? Consult with your partner, your family…and make some agreements.

Trust me, your kids will NOT remember the mountain of gifts, the groaning table of home-baked goodies – they WILL remember the mood you created, the connections you deepened, and the moments when you were fully with them in the present.

Try this list on for size:
10801537_10152629031333392_2735190764720899102_n

Enjoy your Good Fortune this season!

And speaking of presents: In his book, Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne says, “Too much stuff leads to too many choices.” And that can lead to: sibling conflict, overwhelm, wanting more because nothing satisfies, and is a HUGE contributor to YOUR frustration with- and nagging about- STUFF.

Interesting to contemplate: As toys became marketed in all seasons of the year (only since 1955), children’s play became less focused on activities and more focused on the THINGS involved – the toys themselves, as reported by Howard Chudacoff in his history of play.

Check out this blog for how you can have more with less. Toys, that is.

Why does he push my buttons?

Buttons…Triggers…
We all have them.
They’re different for each of us. BUT our kids seem to know EXACTLY what they are and how to push them!

YET with some guidance…you can understand yourself AND deepen your relationship with your child.

At a recent parent evening, I asked the lively group of parents what challenges and frustrates them.

A dad immediately raised his hand and asked,
“Why does my child push my buttons?”

30+ parents nodded in understanding and agreement.

The button, the switch, the trigger – call it what you want – we all recognize it – yet it is different for each of us (and may even vary from day to day, moment to moment).

When I was teaching, I was told that the child before me that “pushes my buttons” is the one that I have the most to learn from. Ouch!

I invited my wise friend and colleague, Parent Coach Carole Downing, to share some wisdom about when our children trigger us.

She shares, “I think all of us as parents can relate to the feeling that our child was given a blueprint at birth to all of our triggers! They seem to know exactly how to push our buttons and we can feel caught off guard by how quickly we can be pushed into reactivity instead of responding in a thoughtful adult manner.”

She continues, “One way to address this discomfort is to reflect on the situations that get us off balance. These are the times when we are quick to anger or feel as if we are being taken over by emotions larger than the current circumstances call for.”

What to do when you’re triggered…
1. Acknowledge that you are triggered!
2. Ask yourself if there is anything unresolved from your own past in this situation.
3. Are you hearing a voice of self-criticism in your head (or on your shoulder!)? Reassure and defuse that voice.
4. Observe yourself & your feelings, acknowledge them without judgement.
5. Give yourself empathy. It may feel difficult at first – pretend that you are your best friend and imagine the words they would use with you. Use your softest, gentlest voice and speak words of understanding, acknowledgment and empathy to yourself.

“When we look deeper we may be able to see that the buttons our children push are actually opportunities to heal parts of ourselves that may not have been activated until we became parents.”

“Doing the work to identify our triggers can help us understand the situations that may be more likely to catch us off balance in interactions with our children. A Parent Coach is trained to help you with this process.”

“We can think of our buttons as places that are lit up and ready to be pushed, but as we do the internal work the bright light fades and that unresolved place no longer has the power to tip us into reactivity.”

“A great resource for looking more deeply into our triggers and how to give ourselves empathy (essential before we can give our children empathy) is the book Parenting From the Inside Out, by Dr. Dan Siegel, M.D. He explains the brain science of being triggered as a parent and also provides a wealth of exercises to assist in working through our own emotions so we can be present for connecting to our children.”

Thanks Carole for sharing this!

Might be a great read before gathering with extended family for the holidays! 🙂

What to Do About ‘Wired’ Boys

I was recently introduced to the book, Wired to Move: Facts and Strategies for Nurturing Boys in an Early Childhood Setting by Ruth Hanford Morhard. She does amazing work as Ruth Reid & Company, consulting with Starting Point in Cleveland, Ohio.
Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 3.08.28 PM

Whether you are parenting or teaching young children or older children, I think you’ll find great value in what she has to share! Thanks Ruth!

 

What to Do about “Wired” Boys!

by Ruth Hanford Morhard

Recent media stories in the New York Times and NBC talked about fidgety boys who are struggling in school, noting the huge gap in behavioral skills and performance between young girls and boys entering kindergarten—a gap that continues to grow throughout their school years.

The Times article noted, “today’s education system fails to acknowledge the profound differences between boys and girls. It asks boys to sit still for hours and provides them with too few role models in front of the classroom.”

This is an issue that can be addressed early—through simple changes in preschool classrooms and teaching methods—and that parents, too, can use at home to help boys perform—and behave—at their best.

• Why Boys Are Fidgety
Sure, boys are “fidgety”, and there are good reasons why. It begins with the way their brains are wired. Boys are “wired to move.” When a boy is physically active, his brain is active. If his brain is not stimulated, he tunes out. He’s not built to sit and listen for a long time. His attention span and learning ability are directly tied to movement and activity. While there are many other differences in boys’ and girls’ brains, this is perhaps the most significant.

• Why Girls Generally Do Better
Girls’ verbal and listening skills are normally better developed than boys’, and they’re more adaptable to change. Most early childhood programs are geared to the ways girls’ learn. The teachers and caregivers are female and more attuned to the ways girls learn and behave. They expect boys to sit still, listen and follow directions—but they’re not made that way. They learn differently and our teachers need to adapt.

• How to Engage Boys
It’s important to keep boys’ brains awake. Allow enough time for physical activity and incorporate movement into daily routines. If you’re reading a book, let them act out the characters or pretend they’re flying like the airplane in the story. Alternate quiet and physically active times. If they need to sit quietly, give them a squeeze ball or other object to manipulate. And keep verbal instructions to less than a minute.

• How to Help Boys Learn
Boys learn best by doing—so let them learn their ABC’s and numbers by manipulating objects—have them make ABCs out of clay or count objects like coins or blocks or crayons. Give them puzzles to put together. Boys are also visual learners—they see better than they hear—so display pictures of the things they’re learning about and use the bright colors they respond to best. Build on their strengths—like spatial-mechanical abilities. Give them enough blocks so they can make large objects and have lots of balls of different sizes

• What About Behavior?
When boys don’t sit and listen or when they won’t stop running and jumping and wrestling with one another, it’s easy to think that’s bad behavior. It’s not. They’re just doing what boys do. If they’re forced to sit quietly, they get frustrated and act out. They need time and space to get physical both indoors and outdoors.

Adapting to the way boys’ learn benefits the boys, their teachers, caregivers, parents and even the girls. Everyone benefits from a less disruptive environment.

There’s a lot more to learn about helping boys perform and behave at their best. It’s important to their future–and ours. Check out: Wired to Move: Facts and Strategies for Nurturing Boys in an Early Childhood Setting, available at booksellers everywhere. And if you’re in the Ohio area, check out: Starting Point.org

10 Tips to Bring Out His Best

Boys have a different way of connecting with you and with the world. You can help him by understanding his way of communicating. Remember, it is HIS job to try out a wide range of behavior. It is YOUR job to interpret and guide him into a socially acceptable range, age-appropriately.

These tips aren’t just for boys – girls benefit from these strategies, too.

WARNING: Do not attempt to implement all of these at once! Choose one or two, practice, adjust as needed.

1. Define the problem clearly. Brainstorm rules together. Set clear, simple rules. Enforce them fairly and consistently. Make sure you are an example of the rules that have been set.

2. Gesture. Point to the infraction or to the rule as it is posted rather than talking too much.

3. One word. Resist filling in details. Speak firmly and calmly. Choose nouns, rather than verbs. Sometimes an interested, “Hmm…” will be enough to prompt action.

4. Give information. Give the rule again, as information. Describe what needs to happen. “We can go to the park as soon as your room is clean.”

5. State how you feel (and then drop it). Describe your feelings and then take a deep breath and move on. “I was disappointed when I came home and saw that your chores weren’t done.”

6. State expectations in the positive. It is often easy to say what we don’t want, rather, ask yourself: “What do I want instead?”

7. State what needs to happen. Describe specifically what needs to be done, focusing on the object rather than the person.

8. Write it down. Post the rules. Write a note or card, which allows you to think about what you want to say and allows boy a chance to digest and determine action.

9. Adjust the outer environment. Are your boy’s physical needs being met? Boys are easily overstimulated and guard against it by acting out. A quiet, simple environment will support your boy’s development. Be aware the children take in images and words literally, with no ability to filter. Media images, including video games, have long term impacts on behavior, stress, learning disorders, and social adjustment.

10. Feed your son’s inner life. Staying connected may take longer but its important that all adult’s in the boy’s life persist. Provide healthy male role models in real life and through literature. Acknowledge all of his feelings while limiting his behavior.

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